The Widow’s Exchange

Annamarie  Theobald was a very attractive young lady.  She had many suitors, young and old, and could have chosen any number of young men for a husband.  But Annamarie was looking for something very special in a husband.  She sought one with a very large amount of money and property.  Unfortunately it seemed that only the older men had amassed the sizeable fortunes that she thought herself entitled to enjoy.  Therefore,  after much deliberation, she married Simon, a man gruff of manner, not entirely pleasant to the eye, but very, very rich.

            The marriage endured, or at least Annamarie endured it, all the while enjoying the pleasures of her husband’s wealth.  But he had been an old man when they married, and of course he got only older as the years passed, and so it was no surprise to anyone, especially to Annamarie, when she found herself a widow – a young, attractive, and very, very rich widow.

            There were proprieties to maintain of course.  Annamarie continued to live alone in the big house that Simon had left to her, along with his many other resources.  Perhaps as a show of appreciation, she contracted with the town’s finest furniture maker to sculpt a wooden statue of her late husband, nearly life size.  She was pleased with the likeness of the finished product, and as word of it spread, the townspeople thought it a noble gesture on her part.  By day, the statue stood in the bedroom looking out over the gardens, but by night Annamarie had instructed the maid to place it on the side of the bed lately occupied by Simon.  The maid of course couldn’t help gossiping about this, and it only increased the admiration the townsfolk felt over this show of affection.   As she closed her eyes to sleep each night, Annamarie would put an arm around the statue and give it a brief hug.   “Goodnight, my love.  Thank you for everything.”

You will recall that although a widow, Annamarie was a young, attractive, and rich widow, and thus will not be surprised that many of her former suitors once again began to press their cases for her affections, if not perhaps her newfound wealth.  But she felt it much too soon to even consider another marriage.   Eventually, one young gentleman could wait no longer for her self-imposed mourning period to come to an end.  As he knew Annamarie’s maid, he bribed her to let him slip into her bed in place of the wooden Simon.

            As she blew out the candle and slipped into bed, Annamarie reached over as usual to hug the wooden reminder of her late husband.  She was surprised, shocked perhaps, to find it warm and slightly yielding, rather than the hard rigid piece of wood she knew it to be.  The shock went away. Annamarie crept closer to investigate, and found that her bedfellow was breathing.  It took only a few moments for her to be convinced that this was indeed a better bedfellow than Old Simon.

            In the morning, when the maid asked as usual what she would like for her noonday meal, it was the maid’s turn to be surprised.   “Oh roast a leg of lamb,” Annamarie told her, “and while you’re at it roast that turkey too.  I’m having a guest for dinner.”             “Madam,” the maid replied, “I’m afraid we don’t have enough kitchen wood to prepare so much altogether.”              “Oh yes we do,” replied Annamarie, pointing out the window. 

There , on the woodpile by the kitchen door, was the wooden statue of Old Simon.

[ This is not an original story by Pennsylvania Jack. It was found in a collection of tales from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Jack has no permission to put it here, and will remove it if so asked. In the meantime, enjoy it as it is a pretty nice tale.]